Minimal insurance policies cover only third parties (including the insured person and third parties carried with the vehicle, but not the driver, if the two do not coincide). Also the third parties, fire and theft are common insurance policies, while the all inclusive policies (kasko policy) which include also damages of the vehicle causing the accident or the injuries. It is also common to include a renounce clause of the insurance company to compensate the damages against the insured person in some cases (usually in case of DUI or other infringement of the law by the driver).
For example, a 50-year-old woman with 30 years' driving experience and a squeaky clean licence is in a prime position for one of the cheapest insurance policies available. Her 18-year-old daughter on the other hand, recently unleashed onto the roads, will be considered a far higher risk for the insurer, consequently increasing the overall cost. Read our guide on getting cheap insurance for young drivers if this applies to you.
When the premium is not mandated by the government, it is usually derived from the calculations of an actuary, based on statistical data. The premium can vary depending on many factors that are believed to affect the expected cost of future claims. Those factors can include the car characteristics, the coverage selected (deductible, limit, covered perils), the profile of the driver (age, gender, driving history) and the usage of the car (commute to work or not, predicted annual distance driven).
Auto insurance is financial protection, and not just for the investment you made when you bought your car. After a really serious accident, bills for damage and injuries can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you happen to cause such a wreck, the victims could sue you. In the worst case scenario, assets such as your savings and home could be seized.